Home Care and Bin Workers: Unite To Defend Jobs And Services!

On 28th December, Birmingham City Council's bin workers will begin action short of a strike after it emerged that those who took part in 2017's strike were discriminated against in not receiving payments made to members of other trade unions. Meanwhile the dispute between the council and local home care workers enters its 18th month. Here we reproduce the text of a bulletin distributed at council workplaces:

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Bin Workers Vote To Work To Rule

Bin workers struck to save jobs and beat the Blairite council last year, after three months of action led by general union Unite. But new information suggests the council paid £4,000 directly to workers who did not strike - in effect, blacklisting striking Unite members.
Birmingham's Labour council disgusted many by spending £6 million on a strike-breaking workforce during the dispute. It is sinking still further with these payments. At a Unite meeting, furious bin workers called for fresh strikes in response with the ballot result of 94 per cent in favour of strike action.
The workers who received the council's extra payment are represented by general union GMB. We need action to unite bin workers in struggle, not divide them so the employer can pick them off. The GMB leadership has not endeared itself to Birmingham nursery workers and users either. It has agreed the Blairites' plan to privatise or close the 14-remaining council-owned nurseries.

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Home Carers Enter 18th Month Of Dispute

Their dispute over cuts to hours and pay, up to £11,000 a year for some, has reached over 50 days of strike action. Rank-and-file members have pushed for more political pressure on the Labour council as they continuously fail the workers.
Frustrated that councillors have tried to ignore their action - less visible than the piles of refuse during the bin strike - home carers leafleted key cutters' wards. Council leader Ian Ward's area was fully leafleted in just 90 minutes! The leaflet asks residents if their councillors, by attacking low-paid women and their service users, represent "Labour values." Councillors promised a meeting with the unions so long as home carers ceased leafleting immediately!
But the council has gone back on its word before. Ahead of May's council elections it promised home carers could trial their own self-rostering system if they called off strikes. As soon as the elections were over, so was the self-roster trial.
Furthermore, addressing a public meeting organised by the council to 'consult' on budget cuts for 2019 onwards, Cllr Paulette Hamilton said she had "no regrets" about the way she'd handled the home care dispute! Let's step up the pressure on these Blairite councillors to make sure they're the ones eating humble pie soon.

 

The Council says there is no money for these services, yet just like how money was wasted on contracted labour to break the bin strike, the Council have also wasted £12 million on consultants to ‘streamline’ adult social care services in Birmingham – a.k.a. cuts!

 

The bin workers' victory in 2017 was a source of inspiration for the home
carers to take on the council themselves. Joint strikes by these workers would strengthen both disputes. Nursery campaigners could join up too as they continue their protests against the sell-off of the city's nurseries. They are all fighting the same enemy and the same threat to jobs, pay, conditions and public services. The bin dispute shows that even though one battle was won, the Council will continue its war on workers. The Council leader may have changed but their agenda has not!

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Birmingham Socialist Party members on a protest in support of the Home Care workers in August 2018

As well as industrial pressure, the unions should work together to apply political
pressure on the Labour council. Last year, Unite assistant general secretary Howard
Beckett rightly told the council: "If you act like Tories, we'll treat you like Tories."
The unions should withdraw support from any councillor who continues to impose austerity. Anti-cuts councillors would instead use the platform to build a mass campaign to win more funding from central government, using reserves and borrowing to set no-cuts budgets in the meantime.

 

This Tory Government is weak, divided and unstable - a general election could be called at any moment! Therefore, it is senseless for Birmingham Labour Council to be fighting against its workers when it could be using its influence to fight Central Government.
The Council should work with other Labour Councils across the country to stand up to Tory cuts and no longer act as their axemen. At the same time, it would not take much for the Trade Unions to organise co-ordinated action to not only support the local councils but also to bring the government to its knees.
Now is a better time than ever for the Council to go on the offensive and work with local people and its workers to demand the money Birmingham needs to properly fund services and protect jobs, terms and conditions. And if Labour Councillors reject this proposal and continue to attack their own staff and the trade unions members – then the trade unions should withdraw, not only their support, but also their financial backing, of any candidate which imposes austerity. In their place new candidates standing on a no-cuts platform should be put forward instead.

 

 

Written by workers for workers.

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